Everyone hates HD collections until the one series they love comes along and then suddenly their attitude changes. For quite a while now, I have refrained from buying any HD collections because I viewed them as a cheap tactic to earn a few bucks. I passed on the God of War remakes, I didn’t even bat an eye at the Tomb Raider games, and in the end, even the Team ICO collection didn’t sway my stance. However, the Jak and Daxter HD collection is the series that finally won me over and made me rethink my views on the situation.
When I first started replaying the games, my biggest fear was that my nostalgic childhood bias had lead me astray, and I would realize the games really weren’t that good (or worse, were just plain horrible). Thankfully, I was completely and utterly wrong. The Jak and Daxter HD collection is what every HD collection and reboot so far should have been. It contains three fantastic games, a true HD upgrade, trophies, and a low price. The games have racing, platforming, shooting, exploring-something for everyone.
If you’ve never played the games before (and there is really no good reason to have EVER passed them up if you owned a PS2), now is your chance to jump on board and trek through the story. The Jak and Daxter series creates incredible worlds and fills them with lovable and quirky characters. They all have that unique and illusive quality to them that makes you remember the games years later.
[tab: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy]
Perhaps the best compliment I can give to Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is that, even now, I cannot think of a better platforming game for the PS3. In the first game, you set off as Jak, who is accompanied by his newly transformed ottsel (that’s what happens when a weasel and an otter do a horizontal dance) companion Daxter, on an adventure to investigate why a group of sages went missing and help Daxter to return to his normal form. The story is lighthearted and comical without seeming too childish. This game certainly doesn’t cater to the same audience as Naughty Dog’s recent hit series, but it is still a great game for all ages.
Now, to get some of the technical information out of the way. The HD update to Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy isn’t as evident as it is in Jak II and Jak III, though that’s not to say it isn’t a proper HD collection. The graphics are crisp and the colors are vibrant. Compared to the original, there is a stark contrast in visual design. The cartoonish art direction works well as a method of hiding the age of the game. Best of all-the framerate runs smoothly at 60 frames per second throughout the entire game, making for a gorgeous graphical update. Aside from the graphics, I was also genuinely surprised by the quality of the voice acting and sound in the game.
Although the HD graphics update is certainly nice, the main focus of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is the incredible platforming and enjoyable world design, which hold up wonderfully well. You will jump, fly, cruise, and roll through caverns, lava tubes, forests, swamps, mountains, and plenty more settings. The controls are as precise as they have always been, and a tutorial level helps you dive in right away without much frustration. The platforming difficulty steadily increases throughout the game without ever becoming annoying. As the difficulty increases, you will also face off against new, interesting enemies and bosses, which break apart the platforming nicely. My only real complaint with the controls (and the platforming, by proxy) is that they feel dated. This isn’t really an issue with the game, but rather that I have become so used to modern controls that seem intuitive that it took me some time to readjust to a game more than a decade old.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was considered a well polished and critically acclaimed platformer when Naughty Dog first released the game in 2001. The platforming and world design still compete with (and are better than) many games that have come out this generation. If you have never played this series before, this first title is easily worth the money you will spend on it. It has, so far, stood up to the test of time.
Witty and enjoyable characters
Fun boss fights
Varied world to explore
|Disappointing final level|
Controls are dated
[tab: Jak II]
Unfortunately, not all sequels improve upon the original. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy succeeded because it focused on a few core gameplay elements, and it did all of them very well. It was an impeccably polished game in every respect. Jak II tried to combine the best aspects of the first game while branching out into new territory. It incorporated new mechanics such as gun play and a Grand Theft Auto like open world. The result, sadly, was the weakest link in this trilogy.
Visually, the HD update to Jak II is even more clear than with the first title. The high framerate, lighting, and colors (or lack thereof in this game) are all much more noticeable. Jak’s animations are cleaner, and the game was rendered on a much larger, much more epic, scale.
Jak II starts off immediately after the hidden ending in the first game. Jak and co. find themselves launched through a portal and scattered throughout time in a new world where three major factions are fighting over control of a bleak city. Jak is captured and tortured, which sets off the main events of the game. You run or clumsily fly through the city attempting to complete fetch quests and collect-the-item missions all while trying to uncover the secrets behind the city, stop the impending battle between factions, find your friends, and seek revenge.
My biggest complaint about Jak II is that they tried, unsuccessfully, to incorporate too many elements into the game. There is a very forced change in tone from lighthearted and comical to dark and drab. The platforming elements are still there, but they are no longer the sole focus of the game. Although the platforming portions are relatively well done, they are all set in a world with little variation. Furthermore, many of the battles and exploration elements found in the first game have been replaced with fetch quests and poor shooting mechanics.
Now you might get the impression I hated Jak II, but I actually still loved it. The introduction of new move sets and new ideas, including a dark version of Jak, were brilliant. Without the change, Jak II would have seemed stale-the ideas just weren’t implemented well. The story in Jak II is also greatly improved over the first game.
Despite being the weakest link in the trilogy, Jak II is fun and decently respectable. The game tried to incorporate too many elements and the result was a hodgepodge of ideas that were not fully realized. Jak II just doesn’t have the same balance and polish that the first game had. It is a great game, and the collectibles will have you playing it for a long time (though they are sometimes tedious to find), but unless you are going to buy the entire collection, I would recommend passing up this game and instead downloading the first and third titles.
|Story is more interesting|
Return of lovable characters
New ideas to keep the series from becoming stale
|Poor balance of new ideas|
World is often boring and tedious
The 'dock' level
[tab: Jak 3]
The third and final “true” game in the Jak and Daxter series, Jak 3, is once again a radical departure from the first title, and a vastly improved sequel to the second title. Jak 3 does away with all of the tedium involved in Jak II’s vehicle fetch quests, and replaces it with something that is actually fun. In short, Jak 3 successfully combines the random mix of ideas that was Jak II’s ultimate downfall. Top it all off with some of Daxter’s one liners (which are possibly the highlight of the game for me) and you have the recipe for a AAA game.
Naughty Dog pulled out all the tricks with the gameplay styles here. Missions fluidly switch from racing to shooting to platforming and back again. The fetch quests all have a purpose now and all contribute towards the larger story. The best part about the new fetch quest system is that the ending location of one quest usually triggers the start of a new one, so you never feel like you have to repeatedly backtrack to previous locations. The larger missions in the game are broken up into smaller parts, which helps to maintain interest. Basically, Jak 3 is a refined version of the second game, and it shows.
The platforming is on par with the first title, the shooting mechanics are now improved, the vehicle races are thrilling, and the world is once again an interesting place to explore. You gain the ability to transform into either a Dark or Light version of Jak, and the new abilities introduced with each transformation compliment each other. Furthermore, the combat in Jak 3 is more complex, requiring you to seamlessly blend various melee attacks and twirls, dark and light powers, gun games, and all-around bad-assery. Even small little annoyances, like traveling too slowly, are remedied by vehicles and hover boards.
Without spoiling the entire series’ story, Jak 3 is set in the same universe as the first two games and marks the conclusion of the original trilogy. It is the perfect finale, and easily the best game of the collection. The relationship between Jak and Daxter, the cutscenes, and the wisecracks all have Naughty Dog’s signature style of humor. It’s easy to see how this studio developed Uncharted.
|Epic conclusion to a great trilogy|
Fantastic mixture of gameplay elements
Best looking game of the series
|Occasional camera glitches|
Some frustrating missions
[tab: The Bottom Line]
The Jak and Daxter HD Collection is a must-own title for anyone. If you are ever looking for a platforming game, or you find yourself with a few bucks and some time to spare, I cannot recommend these games highly enough. No series is perfect, and I would be lying if I said these games were the epitome of the genre (I’m looking at you, Jak II), but they are an absolute joy to play.
The gameplay is responsive, the story is humorous and amusing, and the worlds you explore are absolutely brilliant. All three games are still on par with this generations titles and are well worth checking out. You can download them separately through the PSN or buy all three games in the collection. Stay tuned for more news and an upcoming surprise!
|True HD update|
Sharp platforming gameplay
|Second game is good, but not great|
Camera is occasionally wonky
*Disclaimer: As I do not have a 3D TV, I wasn’t able to test the 3D functions of the collection. However, the Jak and Daxter HD Collection can be played with 3D functionality.
This review is based off of a retail version of the collection, provided by SCEA for review, and all three titles have been completed thoroughly.
Written by: Isli
- News Contributor